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5 Women Get Surprisingly Frank About Why They Stopped Dieting

Heed their caution
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Quick: think back to the first time you considered going on a 'diet.' You might have been in high school — or even middle school — when your body was changing and growing, and it made you uncomfortable. Or perhaps someone in the hallways made a comment about how 'fat' you were, or worse, a trusted loved one showered you with criticism tied to weight. Considering many young women begin thinking about their weight early int heir pre-teen experience, the quest of creating the 'perfect' body becomes a lifelong, fruitless mission. For some women, it takes life-altering experiences for their self-loathing attitudes toward their bodies and their eating habits to shift. Here, five powerful, strong women share their inspiring stories.

Image via Imaxtree

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'I realized diets are just a Band-Aid.'
The first time Jennifer Beeston dieted was at the age of 15, while she was growing up in Newport Beach, California. It was the conversations she had by the beach with her friends while wearing bikinis, nit-picking every last flaw they found. This is when her low-fat, high-fat, vegetarian, meat-heavy yo-yo dieting experiments began. As she went up and down, giving anything a chance that promised to transform her figure, she realized she wasn't actually focusing on the food she was eating; she was merely playing by the rules of the latest fad. This a-ha moment came while she was getting hypnotized at a health spa to control her food cravings.

"The magazines contradicted themselves, as did the advice of diet leaders. You are waiting to lose weight or you just gained weight, and it is hard to really live life if you are waiting to experience it because of rules you have made," said Beeston. "Diets are a Band-Aid. They are a temporary fix," she said. "I recognized that I eat when I am stressed or bored. Now, I do not have food rules. I eat what I want, when I want, but I'm mindful. I like sweets and eat a solid amount of them. In my youth I would have forced myself to eat a healthy meal and then have something sweet as a reward but now I just cut to the chase. I want cake for dinner. Great -- cake it is! I live now."

Image via Jennifer Beeston

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'Becoming a mom was more important than being perfect.'
Though fitness professional Sara Lynn Baker never suffered from an official eating disorder diagnosis, she said she's had an unhealthy relationship with food from the time she was in junior high. Throughout high school, college and even into her late 20s, she wasted much time and energy obsessing and feeling guilt and shame around food. From supplements and plans to exercise programs and beyond, she was always seeking to lose those extra pounds. But it wasn't until she decided to start growing her family and struggled with infertility that she realized how important it was to be healthy, not just skinny.

"The day I found out I was pregnant, I knew that I was going to have to think about my body and food differently. The goals of my nutrition plan and exercise could not be to get smaller and leaner, as now I was feeding and nourishing another soul," she shared. During her first pregnancy, she explained she ate healthy the majority of the time, but it was mentally challenging, as she subconsciously worried about the calories.

"Though I tried to be rather strict after my first baby was born so I could lose the weight fast, I started to realize that I did not have the mental energy to focus on dieting all the time. I was a new mom and returning to work after a few months. I had no space in my head to obsess," she said. "Yet, it was not until after my second child, that I really, really let go. I had two children and even less time."

These days, as a happy, loving mom of two, she feels liberated from these anxieties. "The amount of mental energy I have now for other areas of my life is incredible. Though healthy food is still very important to me, it does not take up nearly as much time and energy as it used to. I can attend social events without anxiety around food, I can enjoy foods I deemed off limits for so long without being ridden with guilt or feeling the need to burn it off the next day," she said.

Image via Sara Lynn Baker

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'I found a passion that prioritized strong over thin.'
Leadership and empowerment coach Anza Goodbar has always fretted over her weight, a journey she describes as a roller coaster of weight loss and weight gain. "Being thin was always related to being beautiful, so I would strive to take of just ten more pounds," she said."It created a love-hate relationship with my body. I tried calorie counting, fad diets, exercise and diet pills -- you name it." Even though her doctor warned the constant zig-zag of her weight could cause heart issues in her 30s, it wasn't until she fell in love with competitive ballroom dancing in her 40s that her mindset changed.

"My goal wasn't to be thin, but to be healthy and strong. Once I decided I wanted to fuel by body for performance, my desire to give in to cravings and unhealthy eating habits diminished," she explained. "I began to notice how different types of eating affected my body, how I felt and my energy levels. Through trial and error, I discovered that high protein, lots of green veggies and limited processed carbs make me feel at my best and my weight fell in line. I don't have the body type to be a thin Barbie Doll physique -- never have, never will. I do, however, have a positive body image and love myself inside and out and I think that is where real beauty resides."

Image via Anza Goodbar

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'A trip to the ER changed my mind.'
A few years ago, independent design and brand consultant Brianna Brailey developed a habit of tracking calories. She started with the app MyFitnessPal and then decided to take on the challenge of Whole30, a month-long clean-eating program that restricts the consumption of certain foods. Her goals was to lose ten pounds, but in the process, she says she lost her grip, too.

"When my husband and I did Whole30, my thoughts were entirely consumed by food. The food I could eat, things I was craving, worrying about whether or not there would be something for me to eat at an event. It was endless. I couldn't talk about anything else. I was annoying myself and driving my coworkers and friends crazy too. Now I realize this was because I was starving myself," she said. When a nasty strep infection sent her to the emergency room, she realized that her health was too important to risk. "I had been a casual runner before going on the diet, but while I was on, it was hard to work out because I had no energy. Since that time, I amped up the running and ran several half marathons and a 76-mile relay race. I've also accepted that your body changes when you get older. I'm not going to be as skinny as I was in high school or early college, and that is OK. If I'm healthy, that's what's most important," she added.

Image via Brianna Brailey

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